Sunday, 27 February 2011

animal kingdom (d. david michôd)

I don't know if this is down to my state of mind at the moment or the film itself. Animal Kingdom's merits as a film are indisputable. The acting is impressive, the story-telling is effective, there's a bleached deadness to the grade and sufficient longeurs in the editing to allow the film to breathe. I was engaged throughout. Yet even as I left the cinema the film had already washed over me and now, less than two days since seeing it, I struggle to recollect any overwhelming feeling in response to it. As I say, I don't know if this is due to the film or my own personal sense of current alienation. Perhaps, being a film that in some ways deals with the notion of alienation, through an impressive central performance from James Frecheville, it hit a nerve that is partially dead.

There's a lot of Scorcese in the background in the tale of a crime family from the Melbourne suburbs. Scorcese gets everywhere these days. You can't move for Scorcese. The slow-motion takes, reminiscent of Mean Streets, were one of the film's weaker tropes. However, early Scorcese works not just because of its vivid technical qualities, but also because of the film-makers ability to present his world, the edges of Little Italy. In a similar way, Michod captures the low-level Anglo-Saxon tropicality of an Australian suburb. Seemingly the antithesis to gloomy , rainy England, in actuality Australia sometimes feels like a Platonic experiment at the creation of a sun-bleached nirvana that has gone weirdly off the rails. And Michod gets to grip with this sense of unease, showing us a society where sociopaths determine social structures and no-one can escape their influence.

As I say, there's much to admire in this film. I have a feeling Michod will make more films and become successful. It will be interesting to see if he stays in his native land or not. The offers will be flooding in. Making a good crime thriller is one of the hardest things to do. The audience doesn't just have to buy into the actions of characters at odds with society; they also have to believe in their world. Animal Kingdom achieves all that. Even if it leaves you as numb as J, it's monosyllabic protagonist, a young man whose future seems doomed both before the film begins and after the credits have rolled.

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